The District of Columbia has joined several other states and localities in providing employment protections for cannabis use. Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser has signed the Cannabis Employment Protections Amendment Act of 2022, which prohibits most employers from taking adverse employment-related actions against employees based on cannabis usage. Now, the measure will begin its final stage of undergoing a 60-day congressional review period before it may become law.
The Act will apply to all public and private employers in D.C., except for the D.C. court system and federal government. Covered employers will be prohibited from firing, failing to hire, or taking any other adverse actions against an individual based on the following:
Under the Act, impairment generally means that the employee demonstrates articulable symptoms that substantially decrease the employee’s performance. Furthermore, employers must treat the use of medical cannabis the same as other controlled substances used via prescription or supervision of licensed medical practitioners.
The Act allows employers to test cannabis usage and take adverse action for safety-sensitive positions, as determined by the employer. According to the Act, “[when] it is reasonably foreseeable that if the employee performs the position’s routine duties or tasks while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, the person would likely cause actual, immediate, and serious bodily injury or loss of life to self or others.” Therefore, employers are not required to allow employees to use medical cannabis at work for these safety-sensitive positions.
Though the Act provides broad workplace protections for employees’ use of cannabis outside the workplace, employers may still restrict its use at work. For example, employers may still forbid the use, consumption, possession, transfer, sale, or growing at the place of employment while working or during work hours. In addition, employers may maintain or create a “reasonable” drug-free workplace policy and take adverse action against employees determined under the Act’s requirements to be impaired.
As the Act undergoes the 60-day mandatory congressional review period, employers should begin reviewing their policies and procedures regarding the use of cannabis. This review includes determining if any positions may be “safety-sensitive” and considering which personnel should undergo training to assess employee impairment.
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